US: Sep 2011
In the first few pages of George Perez’s and Jesus Merino’s Superman #1, the Daily Planet newspaper building is demolished, making way for a new and sleeker structure in which to house the most famous fictional newspaper in the world.
The demolition of the old, brownstone skyscraper, which, according to the comic, was built in the late 1800s, is the backdrop for the first story in DC’s newly relaunched Superman comic. The demise of the old Daily Planet and the rise of the new Daily Planet, which is part of a much bigger, international conglomerate called Galaxy Communications, is a symbol of change. Out with the old and in with the new.
Morgan Edge, a super-villain created by Jack Kirby in 1970, has become the new owner of the Daily Planet, though, in this incarnation, it’s yet to be determined how much of a super-villain he’ll be. Right now, the man’s got big plans. Along with the shiny, new, state-of-the-art digs for the Planet, he’s transformed the Daily Planet into the Planet Global Network. It’s not just a newspaper anymore, folks. Because even in comicbook land (at least in the DC Universe), the newspaper industry, much like in real life, is waning, struggling to stay relevant in the age of digital everything. Lois Lane is no longer an intrepid reporter for the newspaper, but the Executive Producer of the network’s Nightly News Division as well as Executive Vice-President of New Media.
All of Metropolis seems to be very excited about these new changes to the Planet. Even Perry White is on board, though he still concedes that print has its place in the world, an ongoing argument by those in the industry. It seems the only person who isn’t optimistic about change is Clark Kent, who, by his own choice, remains a reporter for the newspaper. And, by default, neither does Superman, who is seen hovering angrily nearby, watching the dinosaur-of-a-building that was crash to the ground by way of wrecking ball.
It’s ironic, then, that the main character who, for decades, has struggled with ways to stay relevant and fresh to younger, more modern audiences, is the one who resents it the most.
Kent accuses Edge (in an argument with Lane), of fraudulent and illegal activities such as wiretapping, extortion and lying, accusations that parallel real-world media mogul Rupert Murdoch. Lane defends him and thus, a divide between the two is forged. It doesn’t help matters that Clark eventually discovers that Lois is sleeping with someone else; because as of this issue, Clark and Lois were never married. Actually, they’re not even dating, though it’s pretty evident that Clark is back to fawning over her, which will make for a potentially interesting love triangle and help bring the spice back to the two star-crossed lovers’ relationship.
While Edge and even Lois represent the present and very real near-future of the newspaper industry, of change and modernization, Clark/Superman represents the older, how-it-used-to-be traditions of an ever-changing industry. And, not just newspapers but the comicbook industry, and publishing as a whole.
When it comes to fashion, however, Superman is all about change. He no longer sports the red underpants on the outside of his costume. There was a time and a place for that kind of thing, and that time has passed. And instead of stretchy, Spandex material, he seems to be wearing a reinforced, light, armor-like suit. In addition, Superman’s belt has changed from yellow to red. He also sports a mock turtleneck, which baffles me because the intent, at least I thought, was to make the costume more modern and serious. So, why then, the flashback to the 90s?
As far as the villain goes, the stuff about old media vs. new media and the conflict going on with Clark regarding change was much more interesting to me than the generic fire creature that Superman battles toward the end of the story. From that point on, it was more or less back to business for Superman. Same cliché, jokey smack talk and not enough let’s-get-down-to-business. Which is one of the problems that fans (and non-fans) of the character complain about most. There just doesn’t seem to be enough of an edge to the character yet. Hopefully, that’ll change.
And for those of you worried about Jimmy Olsen, don’t worry. He’s still a photographer but his new haircut makes him look a lot like Justin Bieber, which just goes to prove that change can be good, but in some cases, it can be really, really bad.